Doctors’ Net Use Keeps Increasing

The latest results of Healtheon Corp.’s Internet Survey of MedicineTM revealed that 85 percent of physicians surveyed are currently using the Internet, an increase in regular online activity by doctors of 42 percent in the last three months, and a jump of 875 percent from 1997.

The ongoing research project has chronicled almost 10,000 physicians’ computer needs and expectations over the last three years.

The survey also found that more than 63 percent of the physicians surveyed use email daily and 33 percent have used email to communicate with patients. Doctor-patient communication via email has jumped 200 percent in the last year and nearly 20 percent in the last three months. Electronic communications between patients and doctors did not even register as a significant behavior when physicians were surveyed in 1997. The use of email for personal communications has also increased by 33 percent in the last year.

“Physicians are indicating that they are now seeing the services they need to deliver better care — such as secure email capabilities and practice Web sites — and have a greater incentive for joining the Internet revolution,” said Healtheon’s Ed Fotsch. “Yet while they are anxious to add more patient-focused medical information and interactive communications services with patients to their Internet experience, patient security, and privacy cannot be sacrificed in the name of technology.”

More than 34 percent of the respondents noted that security remains a primary concern in the use of email or other interactive Internet services. Other obstacles to Internet adoption include: lack of time (49 percent), lack of meaningful network content and services (20 percent), and cost (10 percent).

Physicians and group practices with Web sites represent approximately 30 percent of the medical professionals surveyed; nearly a third of the specialty medical associations offer a Web site for their members. An additional 16 percent of doctors plan to post a Web site for their practice within the year.

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